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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Maduro set to install disputed new Venezuela assembly!

Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was set to install a powerful new assembly packed with his allies Friday, dismissing an international outcry and opposition protests saying he is burying democracy in his crisis-hit country.

The Constituent Assembly, elected last weekend in a vote marred by violence and allegations of fraud, will sit in a chamber in the Legislative Palace in Caracas, where the opposition-controlled legislature is located.
The inaugural session of its 500-plus members — including Maduro’s wife and son — will take place under high security. The opposition has called a mass march in the capital against the body, raising fears of violence that could add to a death toll of more than 125 over the past four months.
“Let there be no provocations, nor should people fall into provocations,” Maduro said late Thursday as he assured all was ready for the Constituent Assembly. The United States, the European Union and major Latin American nations have said they will not recognize the assembly.
The Vatican on Friday urged Venezuela not to go ahead with installing a controversial new assembly sought, and called on the nation’s security services to avoid using excessive force against opposition protests. It called in a statement on “all political actors, and in particular the government, to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the existing constitution”.
And it urged them to “prevent or suspend ongoing initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly which, instead of fostering reconciliation and peace, foment a climate of tension”.
“The Holy See appeals firmly to all of society to avoid all forms of violence and invites, in particular, the security forces to refrain from excessive and disproportionate use of force,” the Vatican said.
The Vatican’s appeal was its first official reaction following the vote last weekend and its silence had not gone unnoticed.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s intelligence service unexpectedly transferred a high-profile opposition figure, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, from jail back to house arrest, his family said.
Ledezma and another opposition figure, Leopoldo Lopez, had been taken from their homes to military prison on Tuesday, reversing earlier home detentions. Lopez remains incarcerated, one of hundreds of people who the opposition says are political prisoners. The Constituent Assembly marks a new stage in Venezuela’s rule.
With unlimited powers to dissolve the National Assembly or amend laws, the new body is tasked with rewriting the 1999 constitution brought in under Maduro’s late mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
Maduro claims the revised charter will yank Venezuela out of its political and economic crisis, though he has not detailed how. Nor has he given an end date for the Constituent Assembly, which he said would operate for years.
The body is being challenged on several fronts.
Backing opposition allegations of fraud, Smartmatic, a British-based company involved in the vote technology behind the election last Sunday, said the official turnout figure had been tampered with and exaggerated by at least a million voters.
Although brushed off by Maduro as part of a plot by “the international enemy,” Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega — a thorn in the president’s side — ordered an investigation.
She said prosecutors had lodged court cases seeking to have the Constituent Assembly annulled, though few in Venezuela believed that would happen.
The country’s supreme court has systematically blocked prosecutorial or legislative gambits against the government.
Using his daily appearances on state television, Maduro has lashed out at several of the 40 countries that admonished him for seeing through the creation of the new assembly.
After being hit directly with US sanctions and called a dictator by US President Donald Trump, Maduro said defiantly that he was standing up to “imperialism.” The Venezuelan leader slammed Mexico, Chile and Peru as American vassals.
But Maduro is fighting against a broad international tide, even if he has support of Russia — which holds billions in Venezuelan debt — as well as the leftist governments of Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
On Friday, Panama said it was giving asylum to two opposition-appointed judges sheltering in its Caracas diplomatic mission who are among 33 the legislature named last month to a parallel supreme court. Five other shadow judges and another Venezuelan opposition figure are being given diplomatic protection, though not asylum, in Chile’s embassy.
The uncertainty and unease surrounding the path Maduro has set Venezuela on has been reflected in an accelerated collapse of the country’s already debilitated currency.
The bolivar lost 20 per cent of its value against the dollar on Thursday, placing scarce imported food and medicine even further out of reach for many impoverished Venezuelans.
One analyst, Luis Salamanca, said the new assembly “is being born badly, but Maduro doesn’t care. He just wants a Constituent Assembly that suits him.”
— AFP

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